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Majority of Japanese Never Taken PCR Test as Japan Allows Doctors to Diagnose COVID Without a Test

TOKYO — Sixty-four percent of those surveyed in a nationwide opinion poll in Japan on Jan. 22 said that they had never taken a PCR test for the coronavirus, while 36% said they had undergone at least one.

The poll was conducted jointly by the Mainichi Shimbun and the Social Survey Research Center, and asked those who responded by cell phone how many times they had taken a PCR test. There were 710 valid responses, of which 455 said they have never undergone such a test, and 255 said they had received one at least once.

In Japan, it is believed that many people take PCR tests out of necessity, either because they have symptoms such as a fever or are identified as a close contact, and at least one respondent said, “I took the test before returning to my hometown to give birth.”

There were also responses that appeared to be from essential workers in medical and nursing care fields who regularly undergo PCR testing, who said things like, “I take the test every month for my profession,” and “I undergo the test twice a month at my company as I’m a caregiver.” Ten respondents, or just 1%, had undertaken PCR tests more than 10 times.

The breakdown of the responses was as follows: 455 people had never taken a PCR test, 106 people had one time, 103 people had two times, 22 people had three times, six people had four times, one person had five times, one person had six times, three people had seven times, three people had eight times, one person had 10 times, one person had 11 times, and eight people had 20 times or more.

The health ministry announced on Monday it will allow doctors to diagnose those who have had close contact with a COVID-19 patient and who show symptoms as being infected without the need for a test, if deemed necessary by local governments.

The new policy will enable patients to get prompt treatment, and allow health authorities to “not only provide them hospitalization but also access to new oral medications.”

Kyle Tattle, president of the Japanese arm of US drugmaker Merck, told reporters the company was working to provide its COVID-19 oral pill, molnupiravir, as soon as possible

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